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Microsoft Power BI and Office 365 analytics

As machine learning, digital storage, and analytics software get more advanced, data is becoming more valuable than ever. Even businesses that don’t rely on data to operate are starting to find ways to get more value out of their information. Microsoft’s newest platform is an excellent example of that -- and it’s free!

What is Power BI?

Released in the spring of 2016, Power BI is Microsoft’s business analytics platform. Regardless of whether or not data is stored within a Microsoft platform, connecting Power BI to a database allows you to create detailed graphs, charts, maps, and more. For example, if you upload sales records, dragging and dropping two columns is all it takes to map out where your product sees the most demand.

Recently, Microsoft announced a brand new feature for business owners who want to get more value out of their software subscriptions. The Office 365 adoption content pack collects information about how your employees use Microsoft productivity software, and feeds it directly into Power BI’s analytics. There are four types of insights you can work with:

Adoption

These metrics give you visibility into how much each O365 platform is being used. You may be paying for OneDrive accounts for the entire organization, only for Power BI to reveal that less than a quarter of your team is using it. Compare enabled users and active users to get a clearer picture of your investments.

Communication

You can also see exactly how employees are using communication solutions. If nearly everyone on the team is accessing Skype for Business from a mobile data connection, it might be time to reduce your investments in cellular-based minutes.

Collaboration

Microsoft has several collaboration platforms, and without proper guidance, employees are likely to use the easiest one rather than the best one. Power BI shows you how much time users spend time in their own Word, PowerPoint, and SharePoint documents compared to the time they spend in documents from colleagues. This shows you which platforms encourage the most collaboration and which ones are struggling.

Activation

- The activation insights give you under-the-hood visibility into which versions of O365 users are running, and what devices they use to access them. That may seem like trivial information, but it can have huge impacts on cyber security.

Power BI comes in three different plans: Desktop, Pro, and Premium. Best of all, both the Desktop plan and the Office 365 adoption content pack are totally free. If you like what you see, consider enlisting us to set up and optimize either a Pro or Premium Power BI deployment -- we’re only a phone call away!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Windows Server 2016 and virtualization

Virtualization is a great way to save money and increase the efficiency of your existing IT hardware, but how exactly do you implement a virtualization solution? There are several vendors that provide software solutions, but there’s one almost everyone has already worked with: Microsoft. In its latest operating system release there are a few ways to virtualize your office.

A brief history of Windows Server

The Windows Server operating system has been around for decades. As an advanced option for onsite servers, this operating system grants access to high-level access management settings, DNS customizations, and network configuration management. In fact, it’s such a complicated solution that Microsoft offers certification courses for each version of the operating system.

The most recent iteration of this operating system is Windows Server 2016 (WS16). Released on October 12th, 2016, Microsoft’s latest server software included countless improvements to its networking and user management features. Where it really shines however, is in the ways it handles virtualized computing.

Virtualization in Windows Server 2016

As with just about anything in the virtualization world, containers dominate the WS16 conversation. Containers use software to aggregate the bare minimum requirements that one application needs to run -- hardware, software and operating system -- and deliver that package across a network to computers that lack one or more of those requirements. For example, if you want to run a Mac application that requires a huge amount of processing power on a bare-bones Windows workstation, you can create a container with the necessary components on your server and let the workstation access it remotely.

WS16 users have access to two types of container deployments: Hyper-V and Windows Server containers. To the average business owner, the differences between these two options is minute, but what is important is Microsoft’s commitment to compatibility. If virtualization is important to you, choosing WS16 is a great way to ensure that you’ll be ready for whatever develops among the disparate providers.

Another great virtualization feature in WS16 is software-defined storage (SDS). It’s a complicated solution, but it essentially allows you to create hard drive partitions outside of the confines of hardware limitations. You can create a single drive by pooling storage space from three different servers, or you can create several separate drives for virtualized workstations to access.

Obviously, managing a server is no easy task -- regardless of whether or not you implement a virtualized infrastructure. That complexity comes with some compatibility issues; if your business relies on old software, it may not have been updated to run with WS16. For everything from creating a transition plan to managing your virtualized framework, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Microsoft Word bug: What you need to know

Software developers and hackers are in a constant game of cat and mouse. When cybercriminals find new security bugs to exploit, tech companies have to quickly release a solution that secures those vulnerabilities. Just this month, Microsoft released a patch to eliminate a Word exploit designed to steal user information. If you’re an avid Microsoft Word user, here’s what you need to know about the bug.

The attackOn April 10, cybersecurity firm Proofpoint discovered scammers running email campaigns to trick people into clicking malware-ridden Word attachments. The fraudulent emails, simply titled “Scan Data,” included attached documents that were named “Scan,” followed by randomized digits.

Although the emails seem harmless, clicking on the documents triggers a download for Dridex malware, a Trojan virus designed to give hackers direct access to your banking information. From there, they can simply log in to your online account and make unauthorized transactions under your name.

In 2015, the distribution of Dridex allowed cybercriminals to steal approximately $25 million from European accounts. And if your business fell victim to this malware, there’s a possibility your company might not be able to recover from the loss.

The solutionFortunately, two days after the discovery of the bug, Microsoft released a security update to disable the dangerous documents, urging users to install the patch as soon as possible. But even though Dridex was inoculated relatively quickly, employees continue to be the biggest problem.

Like most malware attacks, Dridex was distributed via phishing campaigns that preyed on a victim’s trust and curiosity. Hackers added barely any text to the email, yet people were still fooled into clicking on dangerous links.

To make sure Dridex never reaches your company, you must provide comprehensive security awareness training. In your sessions, encourage employees to practice safe computing habits, which include being cautious of online links, setting strong passwords, and avoiding downloads from untrusted and unknown sources.

Much like updating your software, keeping your staff’s security knowledge up to date on the latest threats is also imperative. Ultimately, your goal is to have employees with a security-focused mindset when browsing the web.

Of course, if security training and cybersecurity solutions are not your company’s specialties, you can always rely on a trusted managed services provider like us to protect your business. We can update and secure your systems regularly, and make sure your staff are actively doing their part to reduce security risks. Contact us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Did Microsoft commit a security breach?

In case you didn’t know, Microsoft provides Office 365 users with a free document-sharing platform called docs.com. It’s a great new tool for publishing files intended for public viewing. The downside is, sensitive documents are published without the file owners’ permission. These include hundreds of users who might be unaware that their private files can be viewed by the public.

What’s the damage?

Usernames and passwords for various devices and applications; personal information such as home and email addresses, bank account details, social security numbers, and phone numbers; and medical info comprising patient treatment data and health insurance numbers -- all these were some of the supposedly leaked documents, which were clearly meant to be private. A security researcher discovered that these sensitive files were accessible using docs.com’s search function.

After being alerted to the ‘leak,’ Microsoft responded by removing the search bar. However, most of the documents were already indexed by search engines, Google and Bing, which is how these docs remained available to the public despite disabling the search function.

Recent updates

To alleviate the damage, Microsoft launched an update that limited what users can do to uploaded files, such as restricting files to a read-only status. Although buttons to ‘like,’ download, add to collections, and share in social media are enabled, only users who enter an email address, phone number, or sign in using their Office or Microsoft account can perform any of these functions. Since anyone can easily create a Microsoft account, docs.com users may not feel at ease.

Microsoft’s final word

Docs.com is easy-to-use and is valuable to those eager to publish their documents. The site’s user-friendliness also makes it a popular choice for Office 365 users who wish to ‘spread their work to the world.’ Office 365 users can easily upload from their own computer, OneDrive, or Sway account, and share away. Being a free service also adds a lot of incentive for users to upload their Word, Excel, or any other file onto the site.

In an effort to solve glaring privacy issues, Microsoft has issued some key updates, such as a warning message reminding users that the document to be uploaded will be publicly available on the web. While it may seem like Microsoft committed a blunder, a stricter privacy setting and a few stronger, more visible warnings to users can help make docs.com a useful productivity tool rather than a hacker’s hunting ground.

Discerning Office 365 users can make the most out of docs.com, but they should use the service with caution. If you’ve uploaded documents with sensitive information on docs.com, now is the best time to remove them from the site, or review your privacy settings here and in other document-sharing services.

If you’re not sure how to proceed, or want to learn more about this and other Microsoft products and services, call us now for advice.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Is the government really spying on you?

Wikileaks, the website that anonymously publishes leaked information, recently released a number of documents alleging widespread surveillance by the US government. The released documents claim that the vast majority of these efforts took place via smartphones, messaging apps and...TVs? Let’s see just how worrisome they really are.

What devices and apps are supposedly vulnerable?

Wikileaks labeled its ongoing release of 8,761 classified CIA documents “Year Zero.” Nestled among those files are tools and correspondence that explain how operatives could snoop on communications, downloads, and browsing history. Here is a list of the “affected” applications and hardware:
  • Windows operating systems
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Samsung Smart TVs
  • WhatsApp
  • Signal
  • Telegram
  • Confide
Those are some very big names, right? Thankfully, it’s mostly hyperbole. The reality of the situation isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds.

Two considerations before freaking out

First, almost all these exploits require physical access to devices before anything can be compromised. For example, news organizations repeatedly reported that WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram and Confide all had encryption protocols that had been subverted by the CIA. That is 100% false.

What the documents actually revealed is that the CIA was aware of security gaps in Windows, iOS, Android and Samsung’s Tizen OS, which allowed the agency to snoop on messages before they were encrypted. Messages sent in these apps are still totally uncrackable as long as the devices they are installed on haven’t been physically compromised.

Takeaway #1: Physical security is still one of the most important aspects of cyber security. Most data security regulations require certain physical security protocols as a deterrent to breaches that take place via theft of social engineering -- and for good reason.

The second reason not to worry is the hardware devices and operating systems that supposedly left encrypted messages vulnerable haven’t been sold for a long time. For example, only Samsung TVs from before 2013 were vulnerable to the always-on microphone bug -- which was patched in an OS update years ago.

But what about iOS -- surely that’s the scariest reveal of them all, right? Not quite. Only the iPhone 3G, discontinued in 2010, was susceptible to exploitation. Furthermore, Apple immediately responded that they were aware of this vulnerability and patched it in the version of iOS that was released in 2011.

Takeaway #2: Updating software is critical to keeping your data safe. As we saw in the Year Zero leaks, just one piece of outdated software can cause a domino effect of other vulnerabilities.

In reality, the most recent Wikileaks releases shouldn’t change your approach to cyber security at all. As long as you consider data security a never-ending battle, you’ll be safer than everyone too lazy or forgetful to lock up their server rooms or update their operating system.

But running a business doesn’t always leave you a lot of time for fighting a “never-ending battle,” does it? Fortunately, that’s exactly what we do for our clients every single day. To find out more about how we can keep you safe, call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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MyAnalytics: O365’s productivity coach

Installing software that immediately boosts employee efficiency is any small- or medium-sized business owner’s dream. With Office 365’s newest dashboard -- that’s exactly what you’re getting. And best of all, it’s directly integrated with your existing productivity suite. Read on to learn more.

What is MyAnalytics?

Microsoft’s newest productivity offering is all about applying machine learning technology to your employees’ Office 365 data. By utilizing extremely powerful computing processes to analyze huge blocks of information, MyAnalytics can uncover trends and correlations that may be too complex for human discovery.

Every day, Office 365 users create several thousand new data points across Microsoft’s productivity suite, and there’s a lot of potential to rearrange meetings, project goals, and employee tasks to increase efficiency.

The most obvious improvement is with Outlook calendar. MyAnalytics tracks how long you’re spending with each person in your office as well as the time you’re investing in specific projects. After sufficient information has been gathered, your Office 365 dashboard will begin coaching you on how to organize meetings and project goals based on your habits and past successes.

How can it improve your office?

Have you ever worked on a huge project that required multiple contributors? Did you all meet regularly to update each other on progress? Users who add contacts -- from both inside the company and out -- and projects to MyAnalytics get reminders to stay in touch with co-workers most vital to project completion.

Every metric tracked by MyAnalytics can be shared with your team to make sure everyone is on the same page. So MyAnalytics is more than just a motivational tool, because sharing these metrics allows your team to identify bottlenecks and trends to smooth the workflow process.

Response time is another key metric your employees are probably only vaguely aware of. MyAnalytics calculates average email response times -- both from you and from contacts -- to identify what time of day you’re best at communicating, and how you can adapt your schedule to get more work done in the same amount of time.

Privacy concerns

One of the greatest things about MyAnalytics is that it doesn’t introduce any new privacy concerns for business owners. All the data it uses to create customized coaching and advice is publicly available to everyone at your business -- via calendar appointments, email content, and message timestamps. The only difference is that Microsoft is lending you the previously prohibitive computing power to sift through all of it.

Availability

This wonderful new tool comes free with any Enterprise E5 plan, but can also be added on to E1 and E3 Enterprise plans for just a few dollars per month.

Increasing employee productivity is never as clear cut as it is with MyAnalytics. Install a solution, follow its advice, and start brainstorming about what to do with all your extra time. We’ve got plenty of other great solutions for streamlining your business processes -- call us today to find out!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Microsoft and Citrix: a match made in heaven

Azure and XenDesktop may not be household names, but the newest partnership between Microsoft’s cloud platform and Citrix’s virtualization client are making big waves in the industry. Announced at Citrix’s annual partner Summit, the newest thing in virtualization is a win for everyone.

For those who don't know, Azure is Microsoft’s build-it-yourself cloud platform. With more than 600 services, Azure is all about giving network administrators access to Microsoft data centers to pick and choose how your cloud is structured.

Citrix is one of the largest virtualization software providers on the market. And its most famous product, XenDesktop, was one of the very first software solutions to allow multiple users to access Windows from a networked desktop with a different operating system already installed.

Now compatible with Windows 10

With the recent release of XenDesktop Essentials for Microsoft Azure, these two solutions are becoming one. Administrators can now build fully-stocked Windows 10 desktops stored in Azure, and employees can access them from any machine with Citrix’s lightweight client installed.

The whole setup costs only $12 per user, per month, and comes with a host of administration settings for managing and monitoring your virtualized desktops and how users access them.

A better way to work

It’s like Azure is a moving truck, XenDesktop is the box holding all your stuff in the back of the truck, and your company applications and settings are what’s inside the box. With the right configuration, the whole box can be delivered to employee desktops anywhere in the world.

As long as employees are accessing virtual desktops from verified devices running MacOS, iOS, Android, or even an older version of Windows, they can work as if they are sitting right in front of the Windows 10 install located within your company’s cloud.

Virtualization is a wonderful solution for cutting costs and increasing efficiencies. Unfortunately, even with two of the most user-friendly vendors in their respective industries, virtualizing Windows 10 desktops is still a monumental task. For 24/7 access to support and expert advice, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Updated Microsoft Teams is set for release

Preceding its general availability, Microsoft has recently rolled out a major update for Microsoft Teams -- Window’s version of the cloud-based team collaboration tool, Slack. The latest bundle of features will kick things up a notch, allowing you to do more than IM your manager about your weekly meeting or ask your colleagues to remove the “view only” setting on Google Docs.

Smarter meetingsThe latest addition to Microsoft Teams is Scheduling Assistant, responsible for finding the ideal time to schedule a meeting. It takes into consideration the schedules of all members, and suggests the best possible time for all attendees. Needless to say, whereas Teams allowed users to schedule only intra-team meetings, Microsoft now supports one-on-one meetings. If you want to steer clear of Skype, read on.

Bots, bots, and more botsWith the latest update, bots are now capable of tapping into conversations happening in a team as opposed to a separate chat. To activate team bots, simply type “@” and begin interacting with the bot from there. Microsoft is also working on adding a Bots tab to Teams. This allows you to keep track of all the bots that have been added to a certain team while allowing you to discover new tabs as well. Other bot-related improvements include:

  • New bot gallery - the gallery displays a complete list of all the available bots on Microsoft Teams. Alongside the gallery is where you can add bots to one of your teams.
  • Discover bots via search - simply click on the search bar at the top and select “Discover bots”. From there click on a bot to start chatting, or click “Add” to add it to a team.
  • Add a bot with an @mention - to add a bot to a channel, simply type “@” in your compose box, then select “Add a bot”
Public teamsWith public teams, anyone from your organization can join the team, unlike the private teams which are open only to specific members. Public teams will show up when a user is trying to join a new team, and you can also turn your existing private team into a public team (and vice-versa).

When it was launched in November 2016, Teams was a relatively minimal service. But in just four months, it’s become a lot more powerful and stable. Microsoft Teams has been available to Office 365 Business Essentials, Business Premium, and Enterprise E1, E3 and E5 users since March 14th. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Why you should be an Office Insider

To deliver unparalleled service, Microsoft tests products and features months before they’re released to the public. One of the ways they do this is with the Office Insider program, a voluntary Office 365 subscription that gives participants a sneak peek into future Microsoft developments. It also provides several benefits to business owners willing to take a risk.

Early accessSimilar to the Windows 10 Insider program, the Office Insider program grants users early access to new features, security updates, and bug fixes months before they are available for the general public. Office Insider is available on two levels: the fast ring, where updates are rolled out more frequently but tend to have more issues, and the slow ring, where features are released slower but have little to no software bugs.

The features you have to look forward to include:

  • Calendar.help - When you sign up for the Office Insider Program you are immediately eligible to beta test Calendar.help, a machine learning feature that uses Cortana to schedule important calls, meetings, and events. When you need to set up an appointment over email, you can simply list your contact, add Cortana to the Cc: line, and state your meeting preferences.
  • Outlook - In January 30, Microsoft has increased Outlook 2016’s collaboration options. Insider subscribers can upload locally saved email attachments to OneDrive and collaborate with other employees.
  • Surface Pen - Surface device users in the Insider program can resize, rotate, and move objects in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint with the Surface Pen.
Competitive advantageBecause you’re getting early access to new applications, you’ll have more experience with the features compared to companies who wait for the general availability update. For example, you can test updates like PowerApps -- a feature that allows businesses to create software without knowing how to code -- and decide whether it’s right for your company months before other general users have worked with the product.

In other words, when your business can access and take advantage of Office 365 Insider features early, you’re essentially setting your company ahead of the competition since ‘late’ adopters will need to spend time getting acquainted with the new patch.

FeedbackThe final benefit of the Office Insider program is that you get to voice your opinion on the upcoming features, raise awareness to certain software issues, and provide ideas on how Microsoft can make things better.

Overall, enrolling in the Office Insider program can open up your company to a wide variety of productivity-boosting features. The only question you have to ask yourself now is: Do I want to be at the bleeding edge of tech innovations?

Contact us today to find out how you can get on the inside and know the latest in Office updates.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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G Suite vs. Office 365

Google and Microsoft have both set impressive milestones in the tech industry. These industry giants continually roll out innovative solutions that simplify the lives of users around the world, especially with G Suite and Office 365. This raises a question: Which is a better option for your business?

Cost and commitmentG Suite offers two pricing plans: $5 and $10 per user per month. The $5 plan offers company email addresses, video and voice calls, integrated online calendars, online documents, presentations and spreadsheets and more.

The $10 plan offers all the features of the $5 plan plus unlimited storage or 1TB per user for less than 5 members, advanced admin control panel for Google Drive, and audit and reporting insights for Drive content and sharing, to name a few.

  • Office 365 offers a number of pricing plans, including:
  • Office 365 Business Essentials ($5.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Business ($8.25 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Business Premium ($12.50 per user per month)
  • Office 365 ProPlus ($12.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1 ($8.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3 ($20.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E5 ($35.00 per user per month)
We’ll compare two plans from Office 365 with the same pricing as G Suite below; you can find more details about Office 365’s other plans here.
  • Office 365 Business Essentials will cost $5 per user per month with annual subscription. Monthly subscription will cost $6 per user per month, meaning you’ll save $1 user per month with G Suite.
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1 will cost $2 less than G Suite’s $10 plan
Applications

Google Apps are designed for cloud-based collaboration. For instance, Google Docs lets you make permanent changes in the file or provide feedback using “suggestion” mode. Other advanced features in G Suite include machine intelligence in Google Calendar (which helps you find a time when invitees are free), Dynamic layout suggestions in Google Slides, and better file management and granular content ownership.

Microsoft apps, on the other hand, are designed based on desktop versions of their products with enhanced cloud capability -- you’ll be able to use cloud versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook and more while still being able to work offline. More advanced integration with Microsoft’s cloud solutions like SharePoint, Dynamic CRM, and Azure are also available.

Security

G Suite leverages machine learning capabilities to detect suspicious logins and block most advanced types of spam. It automatically scans every email attachment before you download it to prevent the spread of viruses.

Office 365 utilizes Exchange Online Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), a new email filtering service that targets specific advanced threats like unknown malware and viruses in real time to protect against malicious URLs.

Email

While both Office 365 and G Suite offer a clean interface, the difference lies in the way emails are organized. Gmail lets you apply multiple labels to an email and offers 30GB of storage space across Gmail and Drive.

Office 365 uses classical folder structure to categorize emails and offers a 50-GB inbox in addition to 1-TB storage space. Unlimited storage is also available in its Enterprise E3 $20 per user per month plan.

Third-party integration

G Suite’s integration with CRM, productivity and customer service software gives you plenty of options. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Office 365, as Microsoft hasn’t been adopting a developer integration approach when compared with Google.

Support

Both G Suite and Office 365 offer 24/7 phone and email support. However, G Suite also offers live chat support and forums to seek clarification, give feedback and request additional functionality.

To sum up, G Suite is a better solution if you need native integration with third-party apps and support for various operating systems and devices. Despite that, Office 365 makes sense if you prefer a number of options when it comes to your pricing plans or need integration with other Microsoft cloud solutions. No matter the solution, maximizing productivity is imperative to stay ahead of competitors. If you need help finding the right solutions to enhance efficiency, just give us a call; we’re happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Microsoft ending support for Office 2013

To make sure enterprises get the most out of their Office 365 package, Microsoft announced it will no longer support Office 2013 by the end of February. Instead, the tech giant will push enterprises to upgrade to Office 2016. If your business is still using the 2013 version, here are some things you need to know right away.

Effective February 28, Office 2013 client applications and language packs will no longer be available from the Office 365 self-service portal and Admin Center. On top of that, Microsoft will no longer release feature updates for Office 2013 and will focus solely on upgrading the recent 2016 version. And because Office 2016 doesn’t support Microsoft Exchange Servers 2007 or earlier, you’ll need to upgrade your mail server as well.

The end-of-support changes apply to Office 365 Pro Plus, Small Business Premium, Business, Project Pro, and Visio Pro subscriptions. Although critical security updates for 2013 products extend to April 10, 2018, businesses should really consider making the move to Office 2016 to take advantage of the latest productivity features.

With Office 2016 versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, users can look up web information right from the document interface. What’s more, employees have access to advanced, collaborative features like Skype integrations, Office 365 Planner, and Delve.

If your business plans to migrate to Office 2016, don’t forget to consider the minimum system requirements:

  • 1 GHz processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 3 GB of available disk space
  • 1280 x 800 screen resolution
  • Windows 7 OS, or above
To make the transition process smoother, Microsoft is offering FastTrack migration, a service providing organizations with the tools to help them make the move from one Office version to another.

However, if you need more advice on moving to Office 2016, contact us today. We’ll make sure your Office 365 is always up-to-date.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Simplify calendar sharing with Office 365

Knowing your friend’s schedules comes in handy when you’re trying to arrange a reunion, and the same can be said for businesses. Through calendar sharing, employees can simultaneously arrange meetings, prioritize projects and set schedules for contacting customers. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Recently, Microsoft made changes to its calendar sharing function that might make things a little simpler. Here are some of them:

SimplicityUsers’ first impression of the new model is that it’s much simpler. To share your calendar, simply click the Share option in the calendar menu bar and then enter the names of people with whom you wish to share. With a few clicks, you can decide who gets to see your schedule and how much of it they can view. On top of that, you’ll be able to nominate users who create appointments or accept meeting requests on your behalf - when the update rolls out in early 2017.

What sharers get to seeOnce a user accepts a sharing invitation, the calendar is then added to the set they open. The invitation needs to be accepted using an updated client in order for the embedded instructions to be properly processed. Depending on how much you're willing to share, the calendar allows you to either show full details of your schedule or just certain parts of it.

Mobile devices includedBesides the new sharing interface, this model extends into mobile devices where Outlook for iOS, Android, and Windows 10 Mobile will be able to view and edit shared calendars for the first time. And because calendar events are time-sensitive, changes will be executed and synced immediately, ensuring that your calendar is always accurate.

Immediate synchronization is available for OWA and mobile clients. For Mac users, Outlook continues to use periodic synchronization. This is used to share calendar information with users outside of your Office 365 tenant.

Updates: Outlook for MacKnown as the black sheep of the Outlook family, implementation features of Outlook for Mac generally differs from the way things are done in other clients. Fortunately, Outlook for Mac’s calendar sharing function is being upgraded, with changes that include:

  • Intuitive UI to match other Outlook clients, including the addition of an Accept button to simplify calendar sharing invitations.
  • Shifting away from the Mac-specific local linked calendars, roaming shared calendars reads data from Exchange Online to ensure the same set of shared calendars are visible across all devices.
  • Immediate synchronization will replace periodic synchronization.
Even the tiniest details -- calendar sharing included -- have the potential to greatly impact the outcome of your business. If you have questions or concerns about managing various aspects of Office 365, feel free to get in touch today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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New Office 365 updates for collaboration

Every now and then we all need a little help, especially in today’s digital era. To keep up with the competition, companies are gearing up, especially in the IT department. With the help of cloud computing technology, Office 365 is a productivity and collaboration-enhancing software that is changing the way small- and medium-sized businesses operate. Here are four of the latest features added to Office 365:

Real-time collaboration in PowerPoint

Users will now be able to share a PowerPoint deck and update documents with others in real time. This means you’ll be able to see edits as your colleagues make them. Microsoft was committed to expanding real-time co-authoring of a company’s native applications, with Microsoft Word already rolling out this feature beforehand. Currently, real-time collaboration is available for PowerPoint on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers in the Office Insider program and for PowerPoint Mobile on Windows tablets.

Move attachments to the cloud and share with colleagues in Outlook

According to Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team, this feature allows users to transform a traditional document into a shared cloud document within Outlook. Previously, Outlook users could only attach cloud-based documents to an email, but this new feature makes it easier to send large files and to collaborate on those files with ease.

Users can upload files into their own OneDrive or a document library as part of an Office 365 group and then designate sharing permissions for the email recipients. The new feature is currently available in Outlook on the web as well as Outlook on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers.

Mobile notifications for changes to shared documents

With this new update, users will be notified when any cloud documents in Word, Excel and PowerPoint are being shared or edited. These notifications let you know when changes are being made, even if you are away from a particular document, so you’re always connected and know when you have to act. This feature can be integrated with the activity feed on Windows desktops, and help businesses improve user collaboration. Koenigsbauer says that Microsoft will continue working on the notification feature “to provide more detail and transparency around shared document activity in the future.” Sharing and editing notifications are available for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint users on Android and Windows Mobile for Office Insiders. This feature will be available for commercial users in all Office mobile applications in the coming months.

Find, open, and save documents in a Shared with Me and Recent Folders tab

Microsoft’s “Shared with Me” tab in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint makes it easier for enterprise users to find and open shared documents without having to leave the app you’re working in. At the moment, the Shared with Me tab is available on Windows desktops and Macs for all Office 365 subscribers, iOS and Android devices included. And soon, it will be available on Windows Mobile. And the “Recent Folders” tab -- used to help quickly locate files as well -- is now available in Word, Excel and PowerPoint on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers in the Office Insider program.

Technology has become an integral part of modern businesses, and investing in the right IT resources is needed in order to achieve success. With the latest additions to Microsoft Office 365, small- and medium-sized businesses will enjoy enhanced staff collaboration, increased corporate productivity, and an overall competitive advantage.

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How Skype plans to revamp their mobile app

In a mobile communications space dominated by WhatsApp, iMessage, and Facebook Messenger, the voice and text messaging company, Skype, wants to be much more than just another mobile messaging tool. Earlier this month, they launched their new communication hub named “Skype Mingo” to improve upon the traditional, well-known Skype app. Here are just a few of the many new communication features you can expect from the revamped Skype app.

Skype Mingo borrows a lot from the original Skype app’s features and interface, but with some slight differences. For instance, Mingo allows you to manage call history and phone contacts. This means that if you use Mingo’s search function, the mobile app will search both your Skype directory and your contact list.

Skype Mingo also comes with SMS relay, a feature that allows you to sync native texts with your Skype account, Skype desktop program, and mobile app. All these features suggest that Skype wants smartphone users to set Mingo as their default for photo sharing, SMS, VoIP, file sharing, and contact management.

What’s more, Mingo reinforces Skype’s already strong data-powered video and voice-calling functionality. Microsoft promises that the communication hub is “small, fast, and optimized for speed.” So far, we know that Skype plans to achieve this by offering solutions for data saving through Economical Calling and On-Demand Sync features.

If that hasn’t sold you on the Skype Mingo, you’ll also be able to enjoy the full functionality of Skype bots and virtual assistants for numerous tasks. Need to look for cheap flights? Let Skyscanner know about your travel plans. Want to schedule meetings on the go? Send Zoom a message to set an appointment. Need some medical attention? The Baymax bot can be your healthcare companion.

It’s certain that most of the possibilities that were once out of reach for mobile phones are now possible thanks to Microsoft’s innovations. Though it’s unclear how it will affect the way we use our VoIP or messenger applications in the near future, Skype Mingo definitely looks like a promising addition to the Skype brand.

Currently, the app is still in its alpha testing phase, so expect new features when the full version is rolled out. We will likely keep track of Mingo’s development and public release date, so stay in touch with us to get the lowdown on Skype.

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Choosing storage: OneDrive vs SharePoint

Digital Storage options with Office 365 provide business owners with convenient and efficient data management. But with new software added daily, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the variety of options. Keep reading to find out which Office 365 program will be your best option for organizing and sharing information: SharePoint or OneDrive.

Similarities between OneDrive and SharePointBoth OneDrive and SharePoint applications utilize Office 365 to help businesses organize information and share it with employees and company heads. Documents are stored in a cloud drive for security, so employees can track changes between edited versions, as well as make comments and add information when necessary. This real-time collaboration is one of the favorite benefits of online file management. Since data can be synchronized to various forms of technology, it is portable and usable everywhere.

OneDrive provides personal attentionOneDrive uses a SharePoint backdrop in order to run, making the two programs inherently connected. However, there are distinct features that business owners will notice with their OneDrive account. The OneDrive program is utilized by individuals, and control is still maintained by the individual even if it is shared across a department. Changes are synced to a chosen device, allowing departments to work on projects together. As an administrator, you can share the document by way of a secure link, and you can allow some people to edit and leave others in a position to view only.

SharePoint is a wider group share programIf OneDrive is the perfect individualized sharing option, then SharePoint takes a wider stance. An administrator or company head can save a document online, allowing employees throughout the company to view and edit the document. Every change is tracked to give higher-ups an idea of who is contributing to the company projects. SharePoint is a good application to use for human resource surveys or updates that need to be completed by team members in other departments.

Office 365 encourages businesses to increase their employees' usage of online storage and data options. SharePoint and OneDrive are just two of the many programs provided to improve how your business is run. For more information on how online document sharing programs can help you increase your company's visibility and productivity, contact us today.

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Skype Insider Program from Microsoft

Microsoft has recently announced an Insider Program offering for Skype. This program will allow Skype users on Android, iOS, OS X, and Windows to access more features and updates to its Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service and application. Read on to learn more about Microsoft's new Skype Insider Program and how it can benefit you.

At its core, the new Skype Insider Program is a way to allow Skype users to beta test cutting-edge features and software fixes. In addition to granting users access to the latest features before they become public, this program also gives Microsoft a major advantage because more beta testers means it can roll out full updates and upgrades more quickly. After joining, users can test out a wide array of improvements for any Skype platform, including Android, iOS, OS X, or Windows.

Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into before joining this Insider Program, or any betas for that matter. It exists to test out how well new features work “in the wild,” and there is potential for bugs. The catch 22 is that with so many users beta-testing the software, those problems and bugs will be fixed far more quickly than before, and participants will have a head start on using those features when they officially roll out.

VoIP has been around for years now, and most vendor offerings are similar to one another. In our opinion, getting access to new VoIP technology is definitely worth it. You’ll be able to get a head start on the competition, and Microsoft will reward your contributions with a faster, more secure Skype connection.

An open and well-populated beta program almost always means great things for users and the software they’re using. If you are interested in becoming part of Skype's Insider Program, or if you have any VoIP-related questions, contact us today.

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New ‘intelligent’ features coming to O365

Every day we see more and more machine learning making its way into our lives. From phones and watches to computers and laptops, it's hard to do anything in the world today without interacting with ‘intelligent’ computers. Well, Office 365 has taken things to a new level, and will be getting more than a few of these features in the near future. Read on to prepare your business for all the changes coming to Office 365.

Tap

How many times have you been working in a Word document or an Outlook email and needed to quote a report or copy in a graph from another file? With 365’s new ‘Tap’ service, you have the option to do that without even leaving the application you're working in. Microsoft’s intelligent assistant will even suggest information and data for you to insert based on what you’re writing. You may not even have to make the search -- it will predict what you need in advance!

Quickstarter

A blank canvas is always intimidating when creating a presentation. Quickstarter for PowerPoint and Sway gives you the boost you need by suggesting outlines, layouts, and even information based on the subject you’re presenting on. For example, if you’re holding a meeting to discuss a business retreat, Quickstarter will suggest page layouts and important text for lodging, transportation, itinerary, etc. Half of your presentation could be finished within minutes of starting it.

Designer

Sometimes it seems like everyone else has stunningly beautiful PowerPoint presentations while ours just look like stock templates. And that’s why we’re so excited about the announcement of Designer. All you have to do is insert your text and your photos or graphics, and Microsoft’s machine learning will automatically position, resize, and fade each component so it looks like a professionally designed slide.

Maps

Everyone has made a graph based on Excel data before. It’s probably the swiftest software solution for transforming numbers into charts on the market, and it’s getting a pretty cool upgrade. Now you can convert geographic data like country names into colored and categorized maps. Go ahead and select a second column of data and watch the countries light up based on the differences between the data points in the second column. Do you have sales data that’s organized by location? Maps will let you create a chart that displays that information with little to no manipulation necessary.

MyAnalytics

The last announcement comes in the form of a standalone dashboard for aggregating your work habits. MyAnalytics pulls data from various 365 tasks to help you recognize meetings trends, most productive times of day, and project progression. And if you’re not ready to do anything with this data yourself, the dashboard will make suggestions to you such as ‘focus time,’ best collaborators, and productivity goals.

With these exciting and intelligent additions, entirely new levels of business productivity are possible. Even before Microsoft announced these features, Office 365 reigned supreme as one of only a few truly wonderful pieces of productivity software. If you haven’t made the transition yet, there’s no better time -- call us today.

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Microsoft Edge browser becomes more secure

Microsoft’s Edge browser has enhanced its security features with new virtualization protocols. By running the browser inside a virtual container, it keeps web content totally separate from the Edge browser and your hard drive. Although it's a much smaller scale than what we are used to seeing out of Microsoft’s virtualization strategies, this is a gigantic boost to Windows’s native internet browser.

Browsers are one of the most popular avenues for cyber-criminals to deliver their wares, and new security measures by Microsoft set out to reduce that risk significantly. In a first for internet browsers, Microsoft has burnt any potential bridges between malware and PC hard-drives. The new and virtualized Edge is only available for Windows 10, and administrators will be required to choose what runs inside, and outside of the container.

When enabled, malware cannot gain access to anything outside of the Edge browser. Think of it like reheating your leftover lasagna inside a covered container; when that gooey mozzarella tries to muck up the walls of your microwave, your tupperware ensures it stays clean. So in our case, the cheese is malware, and even if you download malware from an untrusted site, it cannot reach beyond the container that Edge uses to protect your files.

According to tests run by Microsoft, the Edge browser has the lowest chances of malware infection when compared to other browsers running on Windows. And that means a lot when you consider that when it comes to cyber-attacks, the default Windows browser is always the first target.

In addition to creating containers for limiting the exposure of workstations, any malicious data is deleted by resetting the virtual space after users are done with it -- not unlike tossing your dirty tupperware into the dishwasher after reheating last night’s saucy noodle goodness. Permanent cookies aren’t kept after the reset, and it’s impossible for malware to continue running without a space to do so. Every new session starts with a clear, clean browser.

For those new to the virtualization game, it may seem like running Edge in this environment could slow down the machine. But Microsoft has guaranteed a cutting-edge, extremely light burden when enabling the service. When your organization is looking for virtualization services, from creating all your desktops in a virtual, internet-based space, to simply making your browsing more secure with virtual Edge browsers -- there’s only one team to call. Pick up the phone and dial us today. You’re a short consultation away from a cheaper, safer IT infrastructure.

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Updated Office 365 works with guests

The cloud has made it easier for people, businesses, and companies to interact and collaborate. And one of the best productivity tools on the market is Microsoft Office 365, which is making it even simpler to store, organize and share files online. Thanks to its newest update, you can enjoy all these functions when working with teammates, business partners, and customers outside of your organization. Read on for all the details regarding 365’s new guest-collaborator feature.

This new functionality mainly centers around Office 365 groups. A 365 group is essentially an email address with Office privileges that several people have access to. For example, if you have an Editorial Group, each individual writer at your organization will receive emails, calendar invites, and document read/edit privileges sent to .

If you’re interested in adding a guest from outside of your organization to an Office 365 group, the process is simple. From the group administration dashboard, click “Add Members.” Then, all you need to do is enter the email addresses of whomever you would like to add, and voilà.

Guest collaborators will receive an email alerting them of their new addition and access to group files, emails, and calendar items -- all accessible via Office on the web.

Take note, however, of Outlook’s alert: “You’re adding a guest to this group. As a member, they’ll have access to group content.” This will grant new guests all the same read/edit privileges as other group members -- including privileges from before the guest was added.

There is no requirement for guests to have a Microsoft account, and by always labeling the new member as a guest, original group members won’t ever have to worry about forgetting who should receive confidential document privileges.

Unless the guest is a trusted partner, we recommend creating 365 groups specially designated for the purpose of outside collaboration to ensure the privacy of your cloud documents. Administrators can remove them at any time, or guests can volunteer to leave on their own.

Adding and removing collaborators from outside of your organization may be as simple as adding an email address to a list, but the possibility for improved teamwork is limitless. If at any point in your workflow you feel that your work is suffering from bottlenecks in creation, communication, or collaboration, there’s a good chance Office 365 has a solution. If there’s anyone who will know that solution, it’s us. Message us today about collaborating on all your productivity dilemmas.

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Enhance your next Powerpoint presentation

Many suffer from glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. Reasons vary, from traumatic childhood experiences to the inability to imagine your co-workers in their underwear. Enter Microsoft PowerPoint. This program helps visually depict a presentation, whether it be for a class project or a boardroom meeting, or to convince parents to buy your first car. With the nine following tips, you can maximize the efficiency of your next PowerPoint presentation.

Start slideshows instantly

The audience doesn’t want to see the speaker’s cluttered desktop or unread emails as the PowerPoint presentation is being set up. Simply name the file with a .PPS or .PPSX file extension and voilà! Bypass the editing mode and start the show with a double click and end it with the Esc key.

Pull back the focus with Blackouts and Whiteouts

Audience members have the tendency to lose focus or drift away when presentations are longer than usual. If you suspect audience members are starting to lose focus, hit the B key for a complete blackout or the W key for a total whiteout. Then hit any key or click the mouse to return to the slides - this technique helps get the eyes back on you, where they belong.

Say no to bullet points

Both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook agree that bulleted lists aren’t the ticket. A better way to create lists is to drop each item in one at a time, if possible, next to a big image that is the main focus of your presentation. Don’t forget to talk about each individual list item, but not with bullets.

Insert pictures from Flickr and OneNote

Jazz up presentations by including images or memes that’ll make the audience laugh instead of doze off. Head to the Insert tab and select Online Pictures; you’ll see Office.com Clip Art, Bing Image Search, Flickr, OneNote and even Facebook. The vast pool of online imagery is now at your disposal.

Chart animation

The challenge doesn’t lie in inserting the chart into the presentation, but in making it interesting. Enter chart animation. After inserting the chart, click the Animations tab and activate the Animations pane. From there, click Add Animation. Pick an animated effect. Then, in the Animation Pane where you see the entry for the chart's animation, right click and select Effect Options.

This lets you customize sound and animation timing. But on the final tab—Chart Animation—be sure to change Group Chart from "As One Object" to "By Category." This makes charts display on screen one element at a time as you click, with bars or pieces of pie arriving one after the other, as if each was its own slide.

Kiosk presentations

Kiosk mode simply plays your presentation on a loop without allowing any human intervention or desktop access. This is ideal for trade shows and kiosks that you’d find in malls. Simply click the Slideshow tab > setup Slideshow > and in the dialog box, click next to Browsed at kiosk. Duration, audio, animation and transitions are fully customizable.

Extend music over multiple slides

Why confine your favorite tunes to just one slide? Expand it over the duration of your presentation by clicking on the speaker icon that indicates the embedded audio. Look for the Audio Tools above the tabs on top. Now select the new Playback tab, and in the Start section make sure to check the box for “Play Across Slides.” And presto, the audio is played across the next few slides or until the music runs out.

Duplication

If you are constantly reusing the same element throughout your presentation, the good old Ctrl-C+Ctrl-V is fine, but Duplication is better. Hold Ctrl while you click and drag on the object to create an exact dupe, keep selecting and making dupes and they’ll all space themselves out evenly. You can even dupe entire sets of slides; simply select one or more slides on the left navigation pane, select Insert, click New Slide menu and select Duplicate Selected Slides.

Animate, animate, animate

Any element of a PPT slide is animatable. Choose the element, go to the Animations tab, and at the right end of the Animations Gallery, click the down arrow to get "More." You can choose from many options about how an element appears, gets emphasis, or disappears—but for animated motion, go to the fourth section. If you pick Custom Path, you can get the object to do just about any wild motions you want on the screen before it settles down. Keep in mind that you don’t want an audience with motion sickness.
PowerPoint presentations are complicated -- that’s a fact. So is how effective it becomes once utilized properly. If you have any further questions regarding our tips or how to execute them, please feel free to give us a call or send us an email. We’re more than happy to answer all of your questions.
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